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Thoughts on life by Teri McCarthy

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Finding Holiness in the Mundane

Posted by admin in October 30th, 2009
Published in faith, obedience, prayer

I hate folding laundry. Don’t even get me started on putting up the dishes. I don’t like monotonous work like making my bed every morning, going to the grocery store, putting gasoline in the car, or even showering. (Sorry, but personal hygiene is SO monotonous; have you even seen my hair?).

I’ve always struggled with routine. That’s why teaching was such a great job for me. It’s cyclical, but not routine. Every day we could do something different; mix it up a little. And if I (as the teacher) wanted to fly off the radar screen a bit, it was okay, ‘cause I knew where we were going. I was free to take different routes in getting to the same place. Fun. Very unroutinish.

But routine is mundane. Daily tasks can be very monotonous. I hate repetition. (I took piano lessons for four years and I still can’t play scales). Mundane things take a lot of energy and a lot of discipline. Discipline. Ugh.

There have been times in my life, especially in recent years, where I covered up my big pile of lazy slothfulness with a tarp I liked to label “depression.”

“Oh, I’m depressed.” Or, “I’ve got the blues today.” I’d use this excuse so that others would back off and not expect too much out of me or from me. “Daryl, could you do the grocery shopping this week? I’m really struggling with being down right now and just don’t feel like it.” (My heartfelt apologies to those who truly do struggle with depression—it is wrong of me to use that term to cover up my simple laziness).

When I allow this kind of slothfulness to take over, I don’t answer the phone, get the mail, or even leave the house. Everything seems like so much effort. How do I know I’m not clinically depressed? Because if it’s something I WANT to do, I miraculously get my big rear off the couch and do it with great zeal and enthusiasm. There’s a big difference between chemically imbalanced depression and plain old, “I just don’t feel like it.” The first is a real medical condition; the second is just laziness. I know because I’m a lazy girl.

Kathleen Norris has written a book, Acedia and Me. She nails me in this book. Pins me right up against the wall. Acedia is not a word we use in common, modern, everyday English. I had to look the thing up. I had no idea what it meant. Was it a town in Maine? Was it an exotic spice from the far East? What the heck does acedia mean? Norris explains it very clearly, creatively and in great depth. Sadly, (or not so sadly), in defining the word Norris actually describes me. Reading the book, it is as if Kathleen Norris has been a secret guest in my home and watched me slothfully excuse my way out of life—out of living a productive and meaningful life. I feel she exposed me to the whole world. Thanks a lot Kathleen Norris!

Acedia is a thief we allow into our lives. It is an attitude that we cloak with other, more sympathetic names. But the bottom line is: acedia is sin. One of the seven deadly. And, in my opinion, it’s actually one of the deadliest.

Lust. Not a real problem for me. Greed. Not so much. Envy. Nah. Pride. Sometimes. Wrath. Occasionally. Gluttony. Don’t get me started. But slothacedia…yeah…that’s mine! Especially when it comes to repetition and routine. “Oh! I’m sorry. I’m just not wired that way. I’m more of the artistic type. Can’t help the way I’m designed, right?” Give me a break.

In the letter to the Colossians Paul writes, “Whatever you do in word or deed do it all (everything) in the name of the Lord giving thanks.” Paul. Why did he have to be such a prolific writer? He certainly didn’t struggle with acedia.

The only cure for acedia is discipline. Hardcore, good old fashioned discipline. You’d think I’d know that by now with my intense love for all things Richard Foster including his best-selling book, Celebration of Discipline. But I got off track somewhere. Is it life in these United States? Am I suffering from acedia because of the ease in Zion? I’ve never struggled so much spiritually as I have while living in wealthy, no-needs, consumer town, self-reliant, self-absorbed Johnson County, Kansas. Maybe acedia is a disease of the middle-class American, who is obsessed with feeling good, being entertained, anesthetizing-oneself-out-of-any-pain. When our motto is “If it feels good…DO IT!” Then might our other motto, the unspoken one, be “If it DOESN’T feel good, don’t do it?”

Acedia is my sin. And the only antiserum for this sin is spiritual discipline. It is me opening up my heart, mind and soul to the living God and inviting him into the most mundane tasks of my life and celebrating his love and beauty in the most monotonous of those tasks.

Chopping onions for chili? Praise the Lord! Folding two weeks of laundry? Worship the living God by thanking him for all those clothes when others don’t even have enough. Going to the grocery store? Rejoice in arms and legs that are fully functional (big, but fully functional) and a car to drive.

There is something absolutely holy about the mundane. The sheer discipline of routine and inviting the Holy Spirit into these monotonous chores creates in me a right attitude, but also exercises my spirit to see God’s hand and grace in all things.

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Kathleen Norris writes, “Showering, shampooing, brushing the teeth, taking a multiple vitamin, going for a daily walk, as unremarkable as they seem are acts of self-respect. They enhance the ability to take pleasure in oneself and in the world.” In caring for myself I can better care for others—that should be my motivation. For me, the greatest weapon against acedia is to get off the couch, put down the remote control, turn off the Internet and hit my knees. Through prayer, worship, Bible reading and doing all the mundane tasks of life with great joy as unto the Lord, I can stop the sin of acedia in my life and as Kathleen Norris has helped me understand I can begin to see clearly again and reclaim my life through ordinary, mundane acts. There is indeed holiness in the mundane. Peace.

6 users Responded In This Post

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271. grannieannie said,
October 30th, 2009 at 11:29 am

OK, so you AND Kathleen Norris have been spying on me. Not fair.

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272. texas sister said,
October 31st, 2009 at 2:17 pm

reminds of Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God
I read it along time ago and actually experienced God while making bread & butter pickles…
and speaking of mundane; four children in a little under 2000 sq foot house day in and day out…yup I’ve had to wrestle with acedia myself and am glad to finally know the correct terminology 🙂 SIN

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273. Lisa said,
October 31st, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Sounds like we have the makings of an accountability group! (As I grouse over having to buy larger clothes…after not exercising again!) Teri, thanks for calling sin what it is!

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274. Texas cuzzin Linda said,
October 31st, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Oops! I think Kathleen Norris has been spying on me, too.

I want to “begin to see clearly again and reclaim my life through ordinary, mundane acts”.

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279. margaret said,
November 4th, 2009 at 9:41 am

great words!it’s in Him we live, more, breathe, and have our life!

Kathleen(Kathy as I call her!) will be quoting you in her next book!

hugs,
Margaret

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394. rickhinze said,
April 29th, 2010 at 4:09 pm

“[Children] often say, “Do it again”; and the grown up person does it again till he is nearly dead. For grown up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps, God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes each daisy separately, but never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” G.K. Chesterton

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